Thursday, 26 November 2015

Listening to birds and other animals

Prayer is in the listening. If you listen, the call of a wild goose can be a prayer.  The calls of the wild geese in Mary Oliver's poem are like angels that announce our place in the world, over and over.

I experience that kind of prayer in my community on Shabbat morning.  The prayers are less harsh and less exciting, but I still hear the kindness, loss, hope, support and belonging. It's there that I join the safe space of humans telling their stories. My shul is just one place, but it could be anywhere, because it’s not where you say it or what you say, but what you hear, that makes a difference. 

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 

Ma'amadot for Thursday - part of Rabbi Arthur Green's project

God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” God created the great sea monsters, and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And God saw that this was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Gen. 1:20–23)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Seeing stars

In 1610 with his refinements of the telescope to observe the phases of the planet Venus, Galileo proved that the earth revolved around the sun.   There was a new way to see our place in the universe, and we were not the centre of it.     

Judaism teaches us this also – that despite how it looks; we are not the centre of the universe.  Our daily prayer reminds us that we are, each of us, part of an undivided whole, all of us made from the same star-dust.   We say Ein Od– there is nothing else -and that consequently, it’s up to us to look after ourselves, our neighbours and our planet.  

Tonight when I look up to the sky and see the stars; I want to remember to experience my place in the universe and my obligation to the world - to be kinder to others and to help preserve the only home we humans have.  

Ma'amadot for Wednesday - part of Rabbi Arthur Green's project

God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. (Gen. 1:14–19)

Carl Sagan’s beautiful meditation:

          “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

standing for diversity

I'm not a person who grows things. I don't have the green thumbs of my daughter who checks her garden in the morning before school, and grows her own pumpkins, tomatoes and grapes.

I'm the kind of person who likes to turn the pumpkins into fritters, the tomatoes into tasty salads and the grapes into wine (until I discovered how much equipment was actually involved)

We need variety in this world- the people who like to cook and the people who like to grow all have jobs to do.  We need a variety of beliefs, a variety of skills and a variety of communities.

Destroying variety is going in an anti-life direction.


God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Gen. 1:9–13)

As part of the Ma'amadot project of Rabbi Arthur Green, today I want to stand with all communities that recognize the need to protect the biodiversity of our planet , make this bread for my family and be mindful of the joy in diversity.